It’s 2019 and environmental issues are at the forefront of public concern. Polar ice caps are melting, animals are going extinct and air pollution is at an all-time high. As a way to remedy these mounting issues, everyone is encouraged to take “small steps” toward saving the planet — and the sea turtles. Working adults are urged to do whatever they can to help the environment, like taking public transportation or biking to work, no longer using disposable plastic goods, taking five minute showers and the list goes on.
Even the Binghamton University Marketplace is getting on this trend, implementing a ban on single-use plastic straws in early 2019. Don’t get me wrong, I can get behind all of us being a little more conscientious with our usage of environmentally harmful commodities. I think we can agree that we generate far too much trash in our day-to-day lives and we could be more environmentally conscious. But the responsibility to save the planet should not rest completely on us — it should be on the massive billion-dollar corporations that monopolized this country.
Coca-Cola manufactured 3.3 million tons of plastic in 2017. Their waste was found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a “trash island” in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of kilometers away from land. Nestlé, a company heavily reliant on single-use plastic sachets and bottles, was found to be the worst plastic polluter in both 2017 and 2019, and worse yet, it pushes the burden on the developing countries in which they produced the plastic. Regular, working-class people, families and students cannot shoulder the burden of billions of tons of plastic in our oceans. Simply recycling our bottles is not going to offset the damage that these corporate giants are creating. Something else needs to be done.
The issue isn’t only with plastic production, either. Duke Energy, the nation’s largest electric utility, is actively working to slow the transition to renewable energy and continues to generate almost 70 percent of its power through coal. The company spent a staggering $30 million in the last four years to lobby against climate regulations. It is astounding that companies are allowed to work to slow innovations in clean, renewable energy because it means more money for their billionaire CEOs. These corporations are not concerned with the well-being of the general population, only with the bottom line: money.
The focus of the environmentally conscious movement should be these large polluters, not the average American, and it starts with them being held accountable for the damage they are causing. They shouldn’t be permitted to spend millions of dollars lobbying against the interests of the entire human population. There have already been some consequences for these companies: In 2015, Duke Energy was fined $102 million for illegally dumping coal waste into the Dan River in North Carolina. It’s a start, but there need to be more severe punishments for corporations that choose to willfully ignore the environmental impact of their pollution. The responsibility needs to stop being shifted to us because we didn’t create these problems — and we can’t fix them without help.
Emily Jankowski is a freshman majoring in nursing.